Eric Tobias
August 27, 2020
Data Security

Learn how “Shift Left” is impacting Sales and GTM plans?

Image credit: Unsplash

The modern shift left organization: Building a sales model for an API-driven economy

Move over Cloud…there is a new cool kid on the block.  And it’s called the API driven economy. Today, companies need to scale quickly and in an agile fashion, so they’re embracing API-driven development and modular architectures. This often means they need to lean on third-party vendors that allow them to create new technology faster and with fewer resources, providing massive opportunities for platform companies to enter the market with a bang.

This shift has altered the way people evaluate and purchase technology, forcing modern SaaS companies to rethink their sales models and go-to-market (GTM) strategy. The traditional top-down approach, which focuses on securing large enterprise clients by targeting C-suite and VP-level professionals, is no longer viable. SaaS companies need to get leverage faster by adopting a new GTM strategy—one that takes a more customized approach, offers flexible pricing models and expands buyer personas to include an emphasis on influencers.

Enter the Shift Left Influencers

Arguably the biggest change in newer GTM strategies is the focus on influencers. Where salespeople would once go straight to the executive with buying power, the API-driven economy demands a bifurcated approach that starts with the end-user. While buyers are still part of the equation, the influencers come first. In Ubiq’s case, we’ve found that to make an impact we need the influencers—individual developers—to buy into our offering. And Ubiq isn’t alone in our efforts to sway developers. Organizations like Stripe, Twilio and Auth0 have led the way in making sure developers have everything they need to be successful in using their platforms.  

This developer-focused sales strategy is becoming increasingly common. The sales effort becomes a company wide effort to engage developers who test the product, adopt, share with their team members and eventually bring the product to higher-ups at an organization . In broad strokes, the ‘sales’ approach remains the same—be authentic, personalize communication and find pricing models that fit the customer. But the developer persona is quite different than the traditional C-suite buyer, so naturally, the tone and tenor of the marketing needs to change—as do the sales tactics.

Developers won’t be as receptive to hearing a sales pitch and prefer to test-drive the product before committing to a purchase. The goal for developer-focused organizations relies on the ability to convince the developers that it makes sense to buy the API rather than build it in-house by allowing them to get their hands on the product in a test environment.

Developers crave authenticity and solutions 

Across the board, today’s customers respond well to authentic brands, and this is especially true with developers. Developers like communication to be direct and value driven, so skip the buzz words and communicate concisely how your product will solve their problem. They’ll want to clearly see how your product is useful and get their hands on it to test your theory. 

One of the best ways to communicate with developers is to speak their language. In terms of inbound marketing, you don’t want salespeople and marketers writing your blog. Encourage your own developers and engineers to be part of the content creation process to ensure blogs are written in terms that resonate with your end-user. Sales and marketing folks also need to have a deep understanding of developer speak in order have productive conversations once prospects are engaged.

Personalizing the entire experience 

Personalization has always been a key component of the sales process—whether it’s the suit-and-tie client facing meeting with a customized presentation or sending targeted emails with tailored educational content. However, personalization has historically been used as the hook, followed by a more generic pitch.

When pitching developers in an API-driven economy, the entire experience needs to be highly personalized and frictionless. As previously mentioned, developers want a hands-on experience where they can get into the software and test it to make sure it’s relevant to their application. It’s a concerted discovery effort to determine what type of use case and environment the developer is working with, so the experience delivered is hyper-pertinent to their role. For example, if your product helps developers encrypt data, that data can vary from customer to customer. You don’t want to demonstrate how to encrypt video for a developer that’s only dealing with database transactions. But if you can create demo experience that shows how your product solves the exact problems of that developer, you’ll have a much higher chance of getting them to adopt.  

Another key step is that R&D and the sales organizations need to work much more closely to achieve success relative to traditional software organizations. As sales teams garner more trial feedback from end-users and learn more about their challenges, they should be relaying that information to their own internal development teams. If in demos or trials end users are hankering for a specific feature or use case, sales teams should be sharing that with their own engineering teams to better develop products that meet the customers’ needs. 

Offering flexibility in pricing

Finally, putting the developer before the buyer requires greater flexibility when it comes to pricing models. You need to be able to offer an opportunity for the developer, who often lacks a company credit card, to try the product before he or she brings it to decision-makers. In the API-driven world, sandbox trials, free trials and freemium models are increasingly popular as they offer the flexibility needed to come in at the developer level and move your product across the team and up through the organization. 

Though flexible pricing options, offering a personalized testing experience and targeting end-users are all becoming part of a more modern GTM approach, at the end of the day, the product should still drive the sales strategy. There are plenty of companies that will continue to do well taking a top-down approach, but with the shift left movement and more modular engineering, many companies will be forced to develop API-based products and alter their GTM strategies accordingly. Trying to move your product into this space without altering the strategy (or vice versa), is sure path to failure. The shift needs to happen simultaneously for companies to survive in this new, and rapidly evolving environment. 

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